Montana Cold Snap Could Break Records

Billings could hit -10 degrees on Wednesday

By Molly Priddy

BILLINGS — A cold blast that swept into the Northern Plains from Canada was forecast to drive temperatures down to record-breaking levels in parts of Montana by Wednesday morning, forecasters said.

The mercury could plunge to 10-below zero in Billings, rivaling a record set in 1986, said National Weather Service forecaster Dan Borsum.

Lows of 22 below zero in Butte, 17 below in Bozeman and 15 below in Great Falls were forecast.

That’s a sharp change from temperatures that reached the upper 60s across parts of Montana over the weekend.

Behind the sudden drop was an exceptionally strong high-pressure system pumping in cold air from Canada. The system is expected to linger several more days and Borsum says temperatures will stay well below freezing into the weekend.

“It’s going to be as high a pressure system as we’ve ever seen in the month of November, and we’re going to be getting temperatures to follow suit,” Borsum said.

Snowfalls of two- to 10-inches were recorded in eastern Montana on Monday and Tuesday. The next chance for significant snowfall is on Friday.

In Billings, where temperatures were forecast to stay in the single digits until at least Thursday, Susan Messerly nearly escaped the cold blast until her flight to Phoenix for a work trip was cancelled Tuesday because of mechanical problems.

As she pulled her luggage through the snow back to her car, Messerly paused to tap on her phone to see what she was missing.

“It’s five (degrees) here. It’s going to be 82 in Phoenix. That’s warm,” she said with a laugh.

But Messerly expressed a fatalistic attitude about the dramatic difference from just a few days earlier, when the temperature hit 69 degrees in Billings.

“It’s Montana. It wouldn’t be Montana without the cold and snow,” she said.

A visitor to the region from Oklahoma, Patsy Kimmel, said she’d been warned about the weather before arriving Tuesday to visit family in Joliet, Montana and celebrate her 70th birthday. Kimmel used to live in Montana but hadn’t visited during the winter in 30 years.

“You know it’s cold but you forget until that door opens and you go outside,” she said.